There is a running joke in Alaska that if you divided the state in two, Texas would still only be the third-largest US state. For scale, Anchorage is Alaska's biggest city, covering 1961 sq miles from Portage Glacier to Eklutna – about the size of Delaware.

Unfortunately Anchorage is sparsely populated for its immense size, making public transport somewhat unviable. Subzero temperatures in the winter limit pedestrian traffic as well, so developing a more robust ride-sharing system hasn't been a priority. But don't let that discourage you – depending on your itinerary, there are several different ways to get around. 

Exploring downtown Anchorage on foot

The heart of Anchorage is also its most walkable district. Built on an easy-to-navigate grid, downtown is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries and the state's largest mall. In the summer, you can walk the majority of downtown in an hour, but there are also guided tours that will take you on a delightful jaunt through Anchorage's most historic sites – and, more importantly, past the city's best hot-dog vendors. As downtown is relatively flat, walking is suitable for children and adults of all physical fitness levels. 

However, traveling on foot can be a major bummer in the cold, dark winter months, so if you're visiting Anchorage then, you should consider renting a car, even if you're planning to stay downtown. While finding a parking spot is relatively easy in the winter, it can get expensive – downtown parking on weekdays between 9am and 6pm has a two-hour time limit and typically requires feeding the meters. The parking lots scattered around downtown can be more convenient, but try to avoid them as they cost $10 to $30 a day.  

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A pedestrian shields herself from a heavy afternoon snowfall in downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Traveling on foot can be a major bummer in the cold, dark winter months, but in summer, there's no better way to get around Anchorage © Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Why walking is my favorite way to enjoy Anchorage

My hands-down favorite way to navigate around Anchorage in the summer is on foot, with headphones in my ears and a camera in my hand. Although I'm a lifelong Alaskan, I continually discover new buildings, neighborhoods and shops when I'm meandering in the summer sun. There's really no better way to get to know Anchorage than to wander the streets with no specific destination in mind.

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Use the People Mover to get around midtown

Outside of the downtown area, walking isn't the best idea, as it requires going through areas that aren't as safe. Luckily midtown is highly trafficked by buses originating from the downtown bus depot. The #40 will take you to the airport and the funky Spenard area, and #65 will take you to Jewel Lake, which is packed with stunning walking trails. On the downside, many routes only run once an hour, and bus stops can be up to a half-mile away from each other. If you want to get to the south side of town, the bus only runs during rush hour, making it a major hassle.

The bus routes also shut down before 8pm on weekends, which can put a damper on nighttime fun. But if riding the bus is part of your vacation plans, the People Mover has bus trackers, trip planners and maps easily accessible online. Fares range in price from $2.50 for a half-day to $26 for a week. If paying in cash, exact change is required. 

Anchorage brings cosmopolitan flair to the edge of Alaska’s wilderness

The Anchorage skyline with a winter reflection
You'll need a car to reach Anchorage's outlying areas and beyond © Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock

Rent a car to visit the Southside (and beyond)

Situated nearly 20 miles from downtown, Anchorage's Southside is home to epic hiking trails, panoramic mountain views and one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the US. Unfortunately, it's also one of the only areas in Anchorage that cannot be accessed by foot or public transport. There's taxi service in some parts, but to get to any of the hiking areas, you will have to rent a car. Just make sure it has four-wheel drive if renting during the winter.  

The best time to visit Anchorage

Rental prices are highly dependent on the season. In the shoulder season from October to May, you can get a car from national companies like Hertz, Alamo and Avis for as low as $36 a day, though the price jumps to as much as $236 a day from June to August.

In 2021, the rental-car shortage caused a lot of Alaskans to list their personal vehicles on Turo, and there's a good chance that you will be able to find a car there, but prices can be exorbitant in the summer and will continue to increase with the number of visitors in the city. You may be able to snag a better deal on Facebook Marketplace, but be wary of scammers.  

Road to Denali National Park from Anchorage on a summer day
Rental agencies are required to have at least one wheelchair-accessible car in their fleet, but it's vital to plan ahead to make sure you get it © Mr.Ruj_Thailand / Shutterstock

Anchorage's accessible transportation 

Anchorage is surprisingly wheelchair accessible. After the 1964 earthquake, much of the city had to be rebuilt, leaving room for sidewalk improvements, such as curb cuts, and many buildings were reconstructed with wheelchair ramps, so there are very few places in the city that are not ADA-compliant. In addition, Anchorage's predominantly level ground and flush sidewalks lend themselves to wheelchairs.

In terms of public transport, all Anchorage buses are fully accessible with ramps, voice announcements, priority seating and well-trained bus drivers. Alaska Yellow Dispatch also offers wheelchair-accessible vans and operates anywhere in Anchorage.If you are looking to rent an accessible vehicle, each rental agency is required to have at least one car in their fleet. However, cars are rarely available on the same day, so planning ahead is vital to ensure your needs are met. But once you get a car, things should be smooth sailing with ample handicapped spaces, ramps and friendly locals.

You might also like: 
Anchorage's best museums showcase seaplanes, Alaska Native art and much more
16 ways to explore Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city
How to enjoy Anchorage for free, come sunshine or snow

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